Approx. 2400 words
All Rights Reserved
Copyright 2015 SJ
Chaos: Infinite Darkness
written by SJ
“Here we are guys, where you can take that nice long break the Major wants you to have.” Lana joked after making a 2.8 day space jump, taking twice as long because there was no Navigational Beacon. “Well, Hodge, Shannon, Ramos...how about I drop you guys off at Dunes; I hear there are some nice little research domes where you guys can sit and stare at the rocks and sand of a lifeless world...where you can contemplate your place in the Universe, or use a complimentary deck of cards to play solitaire.”
“Don’t go all out for us there, Little Sister.” Bull joked back. “I’m sure you can find a nice little asteroid to dump us off on.”
There were a couple very uninspired chuckles.
“Nah, I’m going to drop you guys off on Fahrenheit,” Lana became a little more serious, “one of the subterranean areas. There you’ll be as safe as if you were snuggled away in your beds in Camp Cheyenne.”
“I think there are a few Daxzans there.” Ramos mentioned.
“Kroots, right?” Gannon assumed.
“They’re only called Kroots if they’re in the military.” Ramos corrected. “And I don’t think they have a militia there.”
As Lana began preparing the shuttle for an in-solar-system jump, she became more serious. “If my guess is right, Chaos will not be interested in Fahrenheit. But, I’m still going to jump to safe space a little further away.” After finishing the jump calculations, she asked, “ready, guys?”
The fourth orbital position of the Far Star solar system was a post-garden planet known as Fahrenheit. Most of the planet was desert with a temperature of more than 120 degrees. The more northern part of the planet was sparsely inhabited by Terrans, where the weather was more temperate, about 90 degrees. Further south, where the weather was much hotter, Terrans and a few Daxzans lived in subterranean towns and villages. Once Lana’s shuttle was in orbit around the planet, she used sensors to detect the two Chaos warships, currently in orbit over Cimarron, the fifth planet, approximately 18 million kilometers away.
Lana quickly set the emergency beacon on her shuttle as she made the decent to a landing pad next to what was marked on her map as a small, but important, underground town. It wasn’t until she was almost ready to land when she was hailed:
“Hello, I’m detecting your shuttle coming in for a landing...even thought I don’t know why I didn’t until now. I have an open spot on shuttle bay D41. Please proceed there. May I ask what your emergency is? I can read your beacon but not your ID, why--”
“My name is LaFong. I am talking to you using a narrow beam channel. Please match my codes and respond using the same beam.”
There was a delay, then, “uh, why? What’s going on?”
“Yeah, I just set it now.”
“I am Officer LaFong of the Cheyenne Ranger Space Marines--”
“Space Marines!” The man cheered. “Oh, now I understand...you had that shuttle on stealth, right?”
“Yes.” LaFong responded, then continued. “I’m going to need to talk with some people that knows what’s been happening in this solar system for the last few days, okay? After I land, we’ll talk and I’ll explain everything. LaFong out.”
By the time Lana and her team had parked the shuttle, had taken a short stroll through 115 degree weather, had gone down some stairs through a tunnel, and had entered the lobby of the shuttleport, there were three men and two women waiting for them, all dressed in the casual uniforms of shuttleport employees. They cheered when the Marines arrived.
Lana just nodded cordially. “Before you get too excited,” she waved at her team, “this is all of us.”
The employees didn’t seem disappointed as they moved aside to expose a video screen sitting on a table behind them with a man and woman in view.
The man spoke first. “My name is Deputy Chancellor Grady.” He gestured to the woman next to him. “This is Doctor Alice Flores. She and her team of astronomers have been using their equipment to help us keep an eye on what’s happening over on Cimarron.” He paused, then continued. “As you probably already know, all of our FTL communication has been knocked out...we assume by those spaceships now in orbit around Cimarron--”
Lana held up her hand. “I need to ask you if you are speaking to us on a secure line--”
“Oh, damn.” Grady seemed shocked. He could be seen turning away, then off screen talking to someone. After about ten seconds, he reappeared. “Okay...there we are. Sorry.”
Lana smiled. “It’s probably not that important here on Fahrenheit.” She became more serious. “However, if you are in communication with Cimarron, do NOT mention anything about us...my team. Please. I don’t know if those Chaos ships are listening to our communication, but it’s important they know nothing about my presence.”
For the next fifteen minutes, Lana carried on a conversation with Deputy Chancellor Grady and Doctor Flores. After they had explained about how worried and frightened they were once they had heard the news from Cimarron, they began answering basic questions:
First, Lana was glad to hear that, other than the destruction of Cimarron’s planetary guns, there had been no other bombardment of the planet they knew of at all. As for communications, Fahrenheit had been able to talk with Cimarron part of the time. Apparently, the two Chaos warships were in a geostationary orbit; when they were on the opposite side of the planet, communications were fine, otherwise it was blocked. Eventually, she found out that the Chaos ships were directly above Cimarron’s planetary capital, Cimarron City, a place where the planet’s Prime Minister was supposed to be located. However, no one had spoken to the Prime Minister, or anyone within the capital city, for several days, any and all communications completely blocked.
The only thing left for her to do was to go to Cimarron.
At the time when Lana had landed her shuttle on Fahrenheit, she had been informed that the Chaos ships had just rounded the bend to the other side of the planet. She waited a few more hours then took off for Cimarron, leaving Hodge, Shannon, Ramos, and most of the Space Marines weapons and ammunition behind. There were a couple Daxzans at the shuttleport, who offered to help move equipment, which was easier for them because of their tougher physiology and resistance to heat.
Cimarron was a much more greener world than Fahrenheit, a garden planet. As Lana entered the atmosphere and began looking for the place Deputy Chancellor Grady said was the best place to land, she could hear him in a conversation with several people on the planet, very possibly authorities he knew personally. The conversation sounded strange, and somewhat comical. When she was only ten thousand meters above the ground, she wasn’t surprised when she was contacted and given a beacon for a place to land. It was obvious their conversation was a kind of improvised code, informing the authorities that some very important people were coming in...and coming in a stealthed shuttle, with reference to the elusive, invisible, gooney bird of a children’s story.
Lana parked her shuttle underneath the overhang of a small shuttleport. As she and her team exited out into a much more comfortable 75 degree weather, she was met by two men, then taken inside to a meeting room, where there were about a dozen people there waiting, more than half of them present virtually. And like Fahrenheit, they were happy to see them, even as few as they were.
The first thing Lana did was to make sure all the virtual connections were secure, which basically meant using direct connections instead of wireless. All planets usually had both types and the switch was easily made since normal space anomalies could sometimes have an effect on wireless networks.
After Lana had introduced herself and the members of her team, it didn’t take long for them to hear that even though most of the people on the planet remained frightened, in effect, very little had happened. There had been no orbital bombardment, and there were basically no Chaos ground troops attacking people, nor had Chaos broadcasted any ominous worldwide threatening messages. And as for the side of the planet opposite of the Chaos warships, life was resuming its normal daily routine, albeit slowly and with great caution.
As Lana listened, this was another case where the machinations of Chaos could not be guessed. Here was a case in which Chaos had complete orbital control of a planet. And of all the possible things they could’ve done, so far, they’ve done almost none of them.
So far, only one place on the planet had been affected by Chaos: Cimarron City and the adjacent urban area around it.
A mature woman on one of the video screens, introduced herself as a Security Official. “I don’t know how to explain it. Cimarron City covers an area of about eight square kilometers. There are approximately 20,000 people living there. But, the area is dark...even in the daylight. No one can understand it.”
An elderly man in a Planetary Guard uniform spoke out. “From that darkness, I was told these things came out. There has been both civilian and Guardsmen casualties. And, so far, they haven’t been able to kill any of them. I even heard that one of these things flew over one of our armored vehicles and blew it up.” He sat firm. “I’ve been informed that all Planetary Guard forces have pulled back from the area of darkness to at least ten kilometers away.”
Lana and her team glanced at each other, then she spoke up, asking, “are these things mostly dark blue...look sort of like flying manta rays?”
“A couple days ago, they sent me some pictures--and that’s them!” The elderly man announced, happy the Space Marines knew about them. He then introduced himself. “I’m Captain Garcia. Cimarron Planetary Guard.” He set his jaw firm, but needed to know, “do you know what these things are--how to kill them? Our lasguns don’t seem to be working.”
Sergeant Dakota answered succinctly, “They’re demons.”
At the word, ‘demons,’ there were some fearful sighs.
Lana began explaining, addressing the Captain. “These demons CAN be killed. Your lasguns should work just fine. You just need to mass your firepower--”
“Last thing I heard, that’s already been done.” Captain Garcia was happy his Guardsmen had done the right thing. “Most of our Planetary Guard platoons have at least one lascannon support team. But, they’re not trained well enough to hit one of those flying demons.”
“That’s okay, Captain.” Lana began trying to calm everyone’s fears with some facts of her own. “You’re better off using massed lasgun fire, anyway. We encountered this type of demon on Thanatos-4. We wiped out about sixty of them. They’re called, Screamers--”
“I’ve heard reports from some of the Guardsmen saying it sounds like they’re screaming when they fly by.” The Captain pointed out, then frowned. “They say it’s damn unnerving. My platoon leaders say they’ve built a bunch of bunkers--”
“Don’t use bunkers,” Lana warned. “If you’re attacked by Screamers, just have your Guardsmen fire from trenches, or if you don’t have those, lay down in a skirmish line right out in the open. Like what happened to your armored vehicle, these Screamers can fly by and plant a bomb, which they can do very quickly. The bomb is at least equivalent to a melta bomb; they’ll blow your bunkers to pieces.”
The Captain could be seen on the video screen nodding and thinking. He eventually spoke. “Right now all our platoons are far enough away to not be bothered by these...Screamers. The area for ten kilometers around Cimarron City has been evacuated. Everything is stable for now. But, I’ll let them know what you said in case something happens.”
At this point, Lana had made up her mind about what her team needed to do next. “Okay. I’ll remain here for awhile to try and answer as many questions as I can. But, I’m going to need to get my team ready to go to Cimarron City. You already know not to contact me by wireless communication, which means don’t call me, let me call you. Also, you should not be using normal communications to tell others that my team is here. I don’t know how much those Chaos ships are listening to your communications, but if they are, and they find out there’s a stealthed shuttle nearby, that’s going to make my job a lot harder and much more dangerous. To put it in military terms, with two hostile warships in orbit, we are under siege. Understand?”
There were some nods and okays from those in the room and those there virtually. Afterwards, the Captain gave Lana the number to the commander of the Planetary Guard forces near Cimarron City.
“Once I’m finished with my preliminary scouting report, I’ll be going back out into space to use the FTL com dish on my shuttle to call the General. He’s currently mustering a force of destroyers and ground troops to drive Chaos off your planet and out of your orbit.” Lana smiled.
“How soon can we expect those to arrive?” One of the men in the room asked.
“As soon as they get my report, it’ll be about five days. At most, eight.”
“So we’ll just do what we can until then.” Captain Garcia seemed to grin.
“Once I finish my report, I’ll return to the planet to help you.” Lana gladly informed, but then had to warn. “But, listen. There’s only going to be so much we can do. We can NOT fight an open battle with Chaos--or do anything that will provoke those warships to bombard us. I hope everyone understands that.”
There were more nods.
Then a woman in the room said simply. “So...what we’ve being doing should be fine, right?”
Lana smiled. “Yes...absolutely.”